The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage opened its 7th session at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris today. Intangible cultural heritage encompasses practices and living expressions handed down from one generation to the next. It includes oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe as well as the knowledge and skills of traditional crafts. Delegates will examine close to 60 candidacies for inscription on the Intangible Heritage Lists before the session closes on 7 December.
“I welcome the progress achieved both in the way people think and in their actions,” the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, told an audience of 600 participants from 110 countries. “The concept of intangible heritage, poorly understood just a few years ago, has gained ground everywhere. There is still work to be done to explain its raison d’être, its exact scope and the benefits of sharing it, but the voice of sceptics is weakening before the reality on the ground.
The commitment of States to safeguard intangible cultural heritage was given concrete expression today with the contribution of US$2.25 million to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund. The Netherlands donated $324,000, Norway $1,760,000 and Spain $167,000. These contributions will be used to support six capacity-building programmes in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Arab States.
Under the chair of Arley Gill (Grenada), the Committee will examine the periodic reports submitted by 16 States Parties to the convention regarding legal, regulatory or other measures taken to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in their countries. The reports also examine the impact that inscription on the Lists has on safeguarding in the countries concerned.
The Committee will consider eight candidacies for inclusion on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding designed to rally international cooperation and assistance to safeguard threatened cultural expressions. Thirty-six candidacies for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity will also be examined alongside two candidacies for the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices and ten International Assistance Requests for safeguarding plans or inventories.
Twenty-seven elements in 15 countries have been inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding to date. The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity numbers 232 elements in 86 countries. Eight programmes are featured on the Register of Best Safeguarding Practices.
Only those countries that have ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage can present elements for inscription on the Intangible Heritage lists. To date 146 countries have ratified the Convention, which was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference in 2003.
The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage numbers 24 representatives of States Parties to the Convention, elected for a four-year term. Half the members are replaced every two years.
© UNESCO – L. Rukingamubiri